I know that I have mentioned the benefits of reading many times before; but it seems more important than ever to reiterate making the most of this down time. I often talk about using the summer break to encourage our children to read but this year this has had to extend to a much longer period of time. Where all parents have had to improvise and think of many more activities to help divert and entertain their children.
Whilst it appears that we have made great strides this week with young children now being able to spend at least some time out and about; how joyful it must feel when you can at least run free for even a limited time, we still have rafts of time at home to fill.
From an academic point of view, summer traditionally is always a quiet time where students take the opportunity to have a break from the rigours of the school year. It normally comes after a full academic year and one where many students had madly prepared for examinations; this year of course has been so different and very challenging mentally for many students.
Downtime from school is normally a fantastic time to recharge the batteries. However, we must consider that this particular extended period of time without normal schooling has had the effect of disturbing our regular learning patterns. Moving into what will be a further period of distance learning of time we must not forget what the impact of doing nothing will have on the brain and learning retention. Making the eventual return to school quite challenging in many cases.
Therefore I continue with my constant campaign of capturing opportunities to encourage our children to start a new book or project just to keep the cogs going. Rest is important to recharge the batteries but effective and structured academic activity does no harm and will act as good preparation for the long awaited return to normality.
Back in 2013 research conducted by the Institute of Education (IOE) concluded by that children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers. At the time this study was believed to be the first to examine the effect of reading for pleasure on cognitive development over time.
The analysis found that children who read for pleasure between the ages of 10 and 16 made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling than those who rarely read.
Dr Alice Sullivan, who conducted the work with Matt Brown, noted that reading for pleasure had the strongest effect on children’s vocabulary development but the impact on spelling and maths was still significant.
‘It may seem surprising that reading for pleasure would help improve a child’s maths score’ she said ‘ But, it is likely that a strong reading ability will enable children to absorb and understand new information and affect their attainment in all subjects.’
Dr Sullivan says that this study underlines the importance of encouraging children to read, even in the digital age. ‘There are concerns that young people’s reading has declined. There could be various reasons for this; including more time spent in organised activities, more homework and of course more time on line.’ she said.
Here at Mallorca Tutoring Academy we constantly encourage all of our students to read for pleasure. Particularly when they are reading in their second language.
Our reasons are not just about academic performance; it is critical vocabulary development that the learner needs for everyday life. In addition we support reading because:
· It increases a sense of achievement, confidence, self-esteem and self-awareness.
· It widens horizons.
· It develops relationships, promotes inclusion and empathy through sharing opinions and ideas.
· It prevents boredom and promotes relaxation.
A recent study carried out by the National Literacy Trust, who questioned 32,000 pupils aged 8 to 18 gave more positive indicators. Two thirds of the children questioned said that they had a favourite work in fiction. There was also an increase in the proportion who said they read daily outside the classroom from 32.3% in 2013 to 41.1% in 2014.
Much work is still to be done. Too many boys still seem disinterested in reading, and far, far too many children simply never become readers at all.
Everyone must play their part. Writers, storytellers, parents, teachers and governments should remember that literacy must first and foremost be enjoyed if we are to engage our most reluctant readers.
So now, here in our phased lockdown, there has never been a better time to get our children reading! Just 30 minutes each day to get out of the heat and relax.
I have listed some of our favourite English books which we keep in our library:
· Listen to the Moon – Michael Morpurgo
· The Fault in our Stars – John Green
· Twilight – Stephanie Meyer
· The World’s Worst Children – David Walliams
· Alex Rider – Anthony Horowitz
· Percy Jackson – Rick Riordan
Of course, for many of us we have children who are educated in the Spanish system and therefore we should not overlook the importance for them to read in their second language. Judith, our Spanish and Catalan tutor here at MTA is just as passionate that her students read for pleasure too. Summer is a very important time to continue to practise these skills.
She has given us some of her favourite titles for you:
· Uno de elefantes – Jorge Acame
· Miedo – Graciela Cabal
· Nadie quiere jugar conmigo – Gabriela Keselman
· Todos los osos son zurdos – Ignacio Padilla
So the moral of the story is that whatever language you read in, the benefits are outstanding. Use this time wisely and you will see these benefits when your children finally return to school. It will be challenging enough in September to start the normality of daily school life without the added stresses of catching up academically.
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” Alan Bennett